Posted by Jim Lowell on February 12, 2021, 11:57 am
My father embarked on the SS Rollins Victory s on January 22, 1946 at LaHavre, France for the crossing to New York City. With other troops finishing their service in Europe, they arrived on February 1st or 2nd, 1946. This information I gathered from a NY Times Newspaper clipping, telegrams he sent to my mother, (his then fiancee) and entries in his diary. I am seeking ship logs or manifest to confirm, although the SS Rollins Victory soon changed names after being sold in July of 1946. The new name was Patagonia Victory in 1947, then to the Holland America line with it s name Arendsdijk.
Thank you for your inquiry. A search of the subscription website Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com) turned up a crew manifest for the voyage of ROLLINS VICTORY in which you have an interest. I can confirm, based on that document, that the ship departed LeHavre January 22, 1946, and arrived New York on February 1, 1946. However, as I anticipated, the manifest contains ONLY the merchant marine crew assigned to the ship for that voyage, listing name, position, age, race, nationality and other limited personal information about the crew members. (The crew was significantly augmented in size to account for the troops that were embarked on the ship, with certain additional duties and functions being necessarily the responsibility of the crew, as compared with a voyage in which there were no passengers aboard.)
I have received a number of inquiries like yours over the years and almost without exception I have been unable to locate a manifest of the troops aboard a ship. My belief is that such manifests were maintained by military officials rather than as part of the voyage documentation of the ship. But it appears that such records, although they once existed and were maintained for several years following World War II, have since been intentionally destroyed. In a statement from the National Archives, "According to [U. S. National Archives] records, in 1951 the Department of the Army destroyed all passenger lists, manifests, logs of vessels, and troop movement files of United States Army Transports for World War II." There was no word on why the records were destroyed. Thus there is no longer an official record of who sailed on what ship. (See the top of this webpage for this statement: http://ww2troopships.com/crossings/1940.htm; the exact source of the statement is not specified.)
Note that ww2troopships.com contains information about troopship crossings, drawn from a variety of informal and unofficial sources, and it is in no way comprehensive. I found no mention of the voyage of ROLLINS VICTORY in January 1946 within the website. The website apparently has not been extensively updated since 2007.
As to log books, there is also mostly bad news. I am not aware of any online or hard-copy repository of World War II-era merchant ship deck logs, including the National Archives. Such logs were the property of the shipping companies that operated merchant ships during World War II and the great majority of those companies went out of business long ago. One can only speculate what happened to those logs. While there was and is a legal requirement to maintain deck logs for a period of time (in case of legal proceedings, for example, in which the logs might serve as evidence), any conceivable use of deck logs for ships from World War II has long since expired. Since they were records belonging to private companies, albeit having to do with government-related activities, namely the movement of ships, supplies and troops, there was no expectation that these records would be maintained by the National Archives. Additionally, deck logs would have represented large volumes of documents without great general interest -- except to latter-day private researchers. My guess is that even the shipping companies discarded most of their old deck logs at the earliest opportunity. (By contrast, logs of Navy and Coast Guard vessels are found in the Archives since those were government vessels and their logs therefore government documents.)
There is another type of log available, through the National Archives, although again unlikely to be of use to you. The Archives maintains original “official logs” of merchant ships. Official logs are not the day-to-day logs showing the ship’s position, course, speed, etc. Instead, official logs contain primarily “administrative” information, so to speak, rather than operational information about a voyage. Masters (captains) of merchant ships were required to turn over their official logs to the U.S. Coast Guard at the end of a voyage, with the official logs thus becoming government property. Official logs are maintained by the National Archives facility nearest the port in which a given voyage ended. Since the voyage of ROLLINS VICTORY in which you are interested ended in New York, the official log for that voyage would be found at the National Archives facility in New York City. (See https://www.archives.gov/locations for a list of the locations of National Archives facilities.) The name of the ship and the end date of a voyage are necessary to identify the proper official log, both of which you have.
Even so, however, be aware that official logs are unlikely to contain the information you seek. See https://www.archives.gov/research/military/logbooks/merchant-vessels.html for a description of the contents of official logs. Official logs focus on the vessel and on the merchant marine crew of the vessel. While it is possible that the official log might contain some passing reference to the military personnel carried aboard on the voyage in question, it almost certainly would not include a manifest of those troops.
One possible avenue for you is to research the military unit to which your father belonged. In my experience, there are unit-specific websites that address the movements of the unit, sometimes in considerable detail, including shipboard movements, originating and destination ports, inclusive dates and, possibly, list of participants. This may be your best bet but an uncertain one, I suspect.
I am sorry I am unable to provide more useful information for you. Best wishes in your continuing research.
Ron Carlson, Webmaster Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website www.armed-guard.com